Chevron has stepped up its attacks on prominent corporate accountability attorney Steven Donziger by seeking a partial gag order designed to silence criticism of the company’s retaliation campaign after it was found to have dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest.
While Chevron has used at least 60 law firms to attack Donziger, this is the first time company lawyers at the law firm Gibson Dunn – who have been accused by courts of “legal thuggery” and falsifying evidence -- have sought any sort of gag order in apparent violation of the First Amendment. Donziger said he believes the gag order is “patently illegal” and reflects increasing desperation by the Gibson Dunn firm and Chevron CEO Michael Wirth after several institutional shareholders strongly rebuked company management at the annual shareholder's meeting in May and courts in Canada continue to proceed with a lawsuit to seize company assets.
Chevron’s toxic dumping in Ecuador in the 1970s and 1980s, which decimated the cultures of five Indigenous groups and has led to an outbreak of childhood leukemia and other cancers, has yet to be cleaned up, according to court findings that ordered the company to pay $9.5 billion to the affected communities so they could remediate their ancestral lands. Chevron has threatened the Indigenous groups and Donziger with a “lifetime of litigation” if they continue with the case. (Here is a summary of the evidence against Chevron.)
Donziger said he would not comply with any gag order to the extent it runs afoul of his legally-protected Free Speech rights under U.S. and international law. (See here for a Donziger legal filing regarding Chevron’s attacks on the First Amendment.) Chevron is seeking the gag order to prevent Donziger from making a written submission challenging its effort to force him to abandon his interest or legal fee in the pollution judgment as part of a highly flawed U.S. “racketeering” decision from 2014. That decision, issued by U.S. federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan, was based largely on false testimony from an admittedly corrupt Ecuadorian witness paid at least $2 million by Chevron.
Seventeen appellate judges in Ecuador, including the country’s entire Constitutional Court, have issued findings rejecting the decision of Kaplan, who held undisclosed investments in Chevron at the time of the “racketeering” trial. Kaplan also refused to consider any of the environmental evidence against the company.
“Chevron and its lawyers need to realize this is the United States of America where Free Speech is a right held by all, not just by powerful corporations,” said Donziger, who has criticized the company’s targeting of human rights defenders. “Our Constitution allows me to criticize Chevron’s coercive and unethical litigation tactics and in fact my clients demand that I do so. To be clear, I will not temper my criticism of Chevron for committing environmental atrocities nor for its attacks against me and other human rights defenders.”
Chevron is seeking the partial gag order against Donziger as the company has come under increasing pressure. The Gibson Dunn firm was caught bribing the company’s star witness, Alberto Guerra, with $38,000 in cash out of suitcase and a myriad of other benefits, including a salary 20 times higher than what he had been earning in Ecuador and immigration to the U.S. for his entire family. After being coached for 53 days by Chevron lawyers, Guerra took the stand in Kaplan's court and by his own admission lied as part of a scheme to taint Donziger and his clients with civil fraud charges designed to block enforcement of the Ecuador judgment in other jurisdictions. Chevron has spent an estimated $2 billion on its defense, but Kaplan’s judgment largely has fallen apart after Guerra recanted much of his testimony. Separately, Canada’s Supreme Court green-lighted a lawsuit brought by the Ecuadorians to seize Chevron assets to force compliance with their judgment. (See here.)
(Here is detailed documentation of Chevron’s witness fraud and bribery regarding Guerra. Here is a criminal referral letter to the U.S. Department of Justice of Chevron over the Guerra witness bribery. Here is background on Gibson Dunn’s pattern of engaging in unethical conduct. Here is a summary of Chevron’s intimidation campaign written by Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler.)
Chevron wants to block Donziger from submitting a qualifying statement explaining that a recent court order that he turn over his interest in the Ecuador judgment was based on the false witness testimony from Guerra, was being done under the coercive threat of contempt of court, violates his ethical duties to his clients who have barred him from transferring his interest in the case, and would be legally null and void in any event. Donziger recently tried to submit a qualifying statement on the issue, but Chevron is trying to squelch it -- a clear effort, Donziger said, to hide an unpleasant feature of the company’s SLAPP-style demonization campaign.
Donziger, who has beaten back seven Chevron attempts to hold him in contempt of court, said he was unbowed by the latest effort by the company to impose a partial gag order. "It appears that both Chevron and Judge Kaplan are united in trying to do everything possible to shore up the extremely problematic, and I believe fatally flawed, racketeering judgment against me and my clients that was based on the false Guerra witness testimony," he said.
“The bottom line is that Chevron lost the environmental case on the merits in the venue where it sought to have the trial,” added Donziger, who has an appeal pending of various Kaplan decisions based on the First Amendment and other grounds. “Rather than pay what it owes based on the harm it caused, the company is now back in the U.S. attacking and distracting because it has calculated it is cheaper to litigate than to comply with court judgments.”
As Chevron’s attacks in the U.S. have intensified, Donziger has received wide support from around the world. Those backing him include musician and Pink Floyd original Roger Waters; Producer and Director Trudie Styler; Actor Alec Baldwin; and prominent lawyers such as Rick Friedman (best-selling author and former President of the Inner Circle of Advocates), First Amendment specialist Marty Garbus, and Professor Charles Nesson of Harvard Law. Also speaking out for Donziger are former National Chief of Canada Phil Fontaine, Rafael Pandam (President of the Amazon Indigenous Parliament), human rights academic and Professor Kathleen Mahoney, Rex Weyler, the co-founder of Greenpeace; Simon Taylor, the co-founder of Global Witness; and Paul Paz, a top-level campaigner with Amazon Watch. (Here are testimonials for Donziger.)
Those on the Chevron team seeking the gag order against Donziger include General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate and several Gibson Dunn lawyers who are the subject of a criminal referral letter to the U.S. Department of Justice. Donziger said the team at Gibson Dunn involved in the witness bribery and other misconduct is led by Trump supporter Randy Mastro and includes, among others, Andrea Neumann, Anne Champion, Avi Weitzman, Ted Boutrous, Reed Brodsky and Alejandro Herrera.
Background On Legal Case and Gibson Dunn’s Ethical Violations
Donziger, who has worked in public interest law since graduating from Harvard Law in the same class as President Obama, started representing the Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples and farmer communities in 1993 to seek solutions for what is widely considered the worst oil-related contamination on earth. Four separate courts in Ecuador found that Chevron deliberately dumped 16 billion gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto ancestral lands in Ecuador’s Amazon from 1964 to 1992, decimating the Indigenous peoples and causing a wave of cancers and other diseases. The company also abandoned roughly 1,000 open-air toxic waste pits that still contaminate groundwater and streams that locals rely on for their drinking water. (Here is a photo essay of some of Chevron’s victims.)
Just last month, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court affirmed the judgment against Chevron in an 8-0 decision based in part on 64,000 chemical sampling results, 105 technical evidentiary reports, Chevron’s own environmental audits, and live testimony from dozens of witnesses. Chevron had insisted the trial take place in Ecuador and had accepted jurisdiction there. It later began to attack Ecuador’s courts as the evidence against it mounted.
Chevron (operating as Texaco) drilled hundreds of oil wells in the 1970s and 1980s in a 1,500 sq. mile area of Ecuador's Amazon. The company’s own audits conducted in the early 1990s found extensive pollution and a total absence of environmental controls. Chevron even used Agent Orange to clear out jungle on Indigenous ancestral lands to install drilling platforms. One Chevron executive, R.W. Shields, sent a memo to company employees ordering the destruction of all documents related to oil spills. Chevron did not conduct even one environmental impact study before drilling in what is considered the world’s most sensitive ecosystem, according to court evidence.
In Chevron retaliatory “racketeering” case, Judge Kaplan also allowed the company to present secret witnesses whose identities were never revealed to Donziger. He also refused to allow Donziger to tell his story in court. The judge denied several recusal motions over his evident bias without disclosing his financial ties to the oil major. (For more on the many problems with the Kaplan trial, see this report.)
Chevron’s management become even more infuriated in recent months after a coalition of 36 institutional shareholders representing $109 billion in assets urged a settlement of the case just prior to the company’s annual meeting in May. At that meeting, two shareholder resolutions critical of management over the Ecuador liability won overwhelming support. Further, Chevron’s previous attempts to subpoena more than 100 journalists, bloggers, shareholders and environmental activists who support the Ecuadorians came under harsh public criticism.
Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler, calling the Chevron attacks against Donziger SLAPP-style intimidation, accused Chevron of committing “ecological crimes” in Ecuador after he visited the affected region last year. Weyler called Donziger a “hero” for standing up to the company.
“This is always the way the status quo power structure protects its own,” he said, in reference to the attacks on Donziger. “The more frightened they are by the truth, the greater their lies. They did this to anti-slavery activists centuries ago, to the suffragettes, to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, to indigenous leaders throughout the world.”
Despite the stepped-up attacks, Chevron and Gibson Dunn still face major risk. Chevron has an estimated $25 billion of assets in Canada, or more than enough to pay the entirety of the Ecuador judgment should the enforcement action conclude. Chevron’s main strategy in Canada is to tie up the case in procedural issues rather than litigate the facts to conclusion, said Donziger.
The Gibson Dunn litigation group headed by Mastro has not helped its own cause. The firm has been sanctioned by judges from England to Montana for engaging in a pattern of unethical practices including the targeting of opposing counsel and falsification of evidence. (Read about Gibson Dunn’s history of falsifying evidence in cases from Ecuador to Nicaragua to Djibouti.) In the meantime, Gibson Dunn markets to the corporate world what it calls the “kill step” which involve coordinated legal and public relations attacks on opposing counsel designed to drive them off cases and leave the victims of polluters without legal representation.
That tactic has failed in the Ecuador case as several prominent Canadian attorneys have come in recent years to represent the Indigenous groups. They include prominent commercial litigator Alan Lenczner and Indigenous rights lawyer Peter Grant.
Separately, six colleagues of Judge Kaplan convinced the New York bar to suspend Donziger’s law license without a hearing on the grounds that he is an “immediate threat to the public order” based on the disputed “racketeering” findings. Donziger, who maintains a law license in another jurisdiction, is fighting that move with the help of Harvard Law Professor Nesson and First Amendment specialist Garbus, both of whom submitted an amicus brief on his behalf. (See here for Donziger’s growing support.)
Chevron witness Guerra continues to receive hush money from the oil giant while living in a house outside Chicago, where the company pays his income taxes. Separately, a forensic report from one of the world’s leading computer authorities (J. Christopher Racich) also proved Guerra lied in the “racketeering” case after being given $38,000 in cash out of a suitcase from Chevron investigators.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFK Human Rights) and Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, today announced Speak Truth To Power: Raising New Voices In Human Rights – a powerful new initiative to inspire global citizenry in students and teachers who stand ready to help prevent human rights abuses and violations. RFK Human Rights’ collaboration with Discovery Education will bring Speak Truth to Power to classrooms across the country with the goal of sparking a national dialogue about what it means to be a 21st century solution-seeker and human rights defender in our world today.
“Our partnership with Discovery Education will show students that they have a role to play in their classrooms, communities and our country addressing the most urgent issues of the day," said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Together we will strengthen the future of global leadership and inspire a new generation of human rights defenders to create a just and peaceful world.”
Speak Truth to Power offers immersive educational experiences and unique, multi-platform online learning tools, including: standards-aligned digital resources, video vignettes, biographies and thought-provoking classroom activities to help students further explore pathways to become champions of justice in their own communities. During the winter of 2018, the program will host RFK Human Rights Day, a virtual viewing event that will facilitate an intergenerational dialogue between human rights defenders at www.speaktruthtopowerinschool.com. This Virtual Field Trip will explore, through pointed conversations with experienced and emerging human rights defenders, the impacts of proven and effective organizing and communications tactics. The exchange will also uncover shared passions, challenges, fears and hopes these committed advocates have in the global struggle to protect and defend human rights.
“Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a just and peaceful world continues to inspire individuals to improve society 50 years after his run for President and bringing together two organizations that are dedicated to equipping young leaders with the necessary tools for life, deepens our impact and inspires a society that advocates for human rights,” said President and CEO of Discovery Education Bill Goodwyn. “Discovery Education is honored to partner with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights to bring educators and students the ‘Speak Truth to Power’ initiative. By leveraging innovative digital tools and one-of-a-kind experiences that breakdown the barriers separating students worldwide, we are helping develop a fearless generation of leaders possessing both the drive and talent to create lasting, positive change around the globe.”
Speak Truth To Power: Raising New Voices In Human Rights also features The Defenders: An Interactive Map, developed to inspire students to explore the stories of some of the world’s most influential human rights defenders. Current defenders include the following human rights activists and 10 new defenders will be added each year to continue to add depth and breadth to the program:
Speak Truth to Power as a will also help to expand the circle of human rights defenders through awareness, discourse and advocacy. “Exposing students to immersive Speak Truth to Power activities by leveraging step-by-step instruction students can follow to take on the causes important to them empowers me to have an open discussion with my students about constructive ways for them to raise their voices in human rights,” said Karen Wells, Midland High School educator, Midland School District, Pleasant Plains, Arkansas. “Today’s world has been transformed by the age of technology and 21st Century skill-building requires our efforts to be equally innovative. This initiative engages and empowers students, helping them to recognize and value their own power in making a difference.”
RFK Human Rights is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that engages with young leaders from around the globe. Founded by activist and attorney Kerry Kennedy, daughter of United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the organization has been a leading source of human rights education for young people worldwide. To date, the organization’s efforts have impacted an estimated 5.2 million students, teachers, community leaders and citizens. Twenty-eighteen marks 50 years since Robert F. Kennedy’s run for President, and this year, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights will host their 50th Anniversary Ripple of Hope Awards Dinner. The event will celebrate Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy and honor leaders from the international business, public service, media, and activist communities who have demonstrated a commitment to social change. This year’s laureates include David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery, 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and Bruce D. Broussard, CEO of Humana.
To learn more about Speak Truth To Power: Raising New Voices In Human Rights visit www.speaktruthtopowerinschool.com. For more information about Discovery Education’s digital content and professional development services, visit discoveryeducation.com. Stay connected with Discovery Education on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @DiscoveryEd.
About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has advocated for a more just and peaceful world since 1968. We work alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations. Whether in the United States or abroad, our programs have pursued justice through strategic litigation on key human rights issues, educated millions of children in human rights advocacy and fostered a social good approach to business and investment.
About Discovery Education
As the global leader in standards-based digital content for K-12 classrooms worldwide, Discovery Education is transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional learning, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Serving 4.5 million educators and over 50 million students, Discovery Education’s services are available in approximately half of U.S. classrooms, 50 percent of all primary schools in the UK, and more than 50 countries around the globe. Inspired by the global media company Discovery, Inc., Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that increase academic achievement. Explore the future of education at DiscoveryEducation.com.
Charmion N. Kinder, Discovery Education
Max Burnes, RFK Human Rights
YourCause, the leader in enterprise philanthropic technology, and Charities Trust, one of the U.K.’s leading donation management organizations, have joined forces to boost employee-driven charitable giving in the United Kingdom.
Charities Trust will provide YourCause clients with charitable payment processing to U.K.-based charities, as well as expand YourCause's international charity database with the addition of over 210,000 registered U.K. charities. The global partnership will provide greater charity choice and increase employee giving capacity to the YourCause Global Good Network, which consists of over 300 corporations and nearly 8 million employees located in more than 170 countries.
“In 2017, the YourCause platform enabled employees to donate over one million dollars to charities based in the United Kingdom. Year after year, employees expect more from their employers in the global offerings of their corporate social responsibility and philanthropy programs,” said Matt Combs, Founder, and CEO of YourCause. "To meet these demands, corporations must offer easy to use tools that encourage employee participation in workplace giving and volunteering programs, backed by reliable, transparent, and secure global charity vetting and payment distribution services from partners such as Charities Trust."
Charities Trust will provide charity verification and payment processing services for U.K. organizations. This partnership further expands YourCause’s flexible and trusted global vetting and payment distribution processes, ensuring that clients have access to a comprehensive charity database verified against both U.K. and U.S. standards.
The partnership will also support Payroll Giving and the claiming of Gift Aid, providing companies with U.K.-based employees with a seamless giving experience that takes advantage of incentives unique to the United Kingdom.
Linda Minnis, CEO of Charities Trust, said of the partnership, “We are delighted to be working as YourCause’s preferred payment partner in the United Kingdom. We share many values, including a determination to ensure that we provide the widest choice of corporate and employee giving solutions. We know this collaboration will create significant opportunities for both parties and benefit many more charities. Between our organizations, we currently have some of the largest global companies as clients and look forward to providing them with greater charity choice and enhanced employee giving options.”
About Charities Trust
Charities Trust is one of the UK’s leading donation management organizations. It offers a range of services to help its clients raise millions of pounds for good causes. During the past decade it has distributed over half a billion pounds to more than 50,000 charities.
As a charity and not-for-profit, fees are kept as low as possible. Any money made goes back into growing the giving market and not to shareholders.
With its simple, friendly and inventive approach it has earned a trusted reputation and firmly established itself at the heart of corporate giving.
YourCause, LLC is a Dallas, TX-based Software as a Service (“SaaS”) provider of the CSRconnect Employee Engagement Platform (“CSRconnect”) and the GrantsConnect Corporate and Foundation Grants Management Platform (“GrantsConnect”), and integrated, fully hosted solution for corporations to more effectively deploy and manage their employee giving, volunteering, disaster relief, grant management, fundraising, and overall corporate social responsibility and philanthropy programs. Ranked on the Inc. 5000 list for four consecutive years, and named a best place to work in Dallas, YourCause is rapidly expanding its operations through the ongoing deployment of end-to-end solutions for enterprises, nonprofits, and do-gooders. YourCause’s Transparent Giving model allows the company to maximize impact across its Global Good Network benefitting millions of nonprofits around the world.
3BL Media Chief Marketing Officer Dave Armon will lead a discussion Sept. 6 in New York City on steps that purpose-drive companies like Eileen Fisher and Pfizer are taking to emphasize corporate culture and environment as a top priority among traditional employee benefit offerings.
The event, ABCs of Culture Building, is presented by USI Insurance Services and Ultimate Software and will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 pm at the MetLife Conference Center, 200 Park Ave. Attendance is complimentary for corporate responsibility and human resources executives. Pre-registration is required and may be completed here.
“We will discuss the importance of attaining and retaining strong, satisfied employees through three key elements: Artificial intelligence, the benefits of a B-corp environment, and Corporate social responsibility,” said Armon, who led 3BL Media’s acquisition of Corporate Responsibility Magazine in 2017.
According to Deloitte, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. This growing population comes with high expectations of workplace culture as well as a sense of impacting global change.
Joining Armon will be Rana Stanfill-Hobbs, director of insights for Ultimate Software; Amy Hall, vice president of Eileen Fisher; Kate Rebernack, CEO of Framework LLC; and Johanna Danaher, director of culture for Pfizer.
Topics to be examined include how technology tools, social and environmental accountability, and business transparency have positively impacted company culture and the employee experience.
Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served. Professional development credits are available -- 1.5 general HR credits through SHRM are approved, and 1.5 general HR credits with HRCI are pending.
About 3BL Media
3BL Media is the world’s leading communications partner for purpose-driven organizations. Through content distribution, multi-media promotion and hands-on learning experiences, we connect organizations to an unrivaled audience that is passionate about sustainable business.